The 2013 season for the Green Bay Packers sure looks a lot like their 2010 season.
That season, the Packers saw 15 players placed on injured reserve. They included tight end Jemichael Finley, running back Ryan Grant, offensive tackle Mark Tauscher, safety Morgan Burnett, linebacker Nick Barnett, defensive end Mike Neal and linebacker Brad Jones.
The team was also without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for awhile due to a concussion that he suffered against the Lions in Detroit. The Packers lost that game and fell the following week to the New England Patriots when Rodgers sat out again.
After the New England loss, the Packers were 8-6 and on the brink of elimination for a playoff berth.
This season, the Packers have already placed nine players on injured reserve. Some key names are once more part of that list, such as offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, running back DuJuan Harris and Finley again.
But the big injury this season is the one involving Rodgers again. No. 12 suffered a fractured clavicle in a loss to the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4. The Packers have also lost the next two to the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
Before facing the Bears, the Packers had won four straight. Since then—without Rodgers—Green Bay has lost three straight.
But not all is lost. The team is 5-5 and only a game out of first place in the NFC North. The Packers also have three more games against divisional opponents among its six contests left to play.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has confidence in his team, as he talked about the obstacles the Packers have faced so far this season, via Packers.com:
I’ll just tell you this about this football team: This football team has a lot of character. Leadership has grown immensely; times like this are when you see it.
I’m proud of the way they’re handling these challenges. Every year you go down a different road. This road has had a lot of things thrown at us so far, and I fully believe it’s only going to make us stronger.
We need to get better. We’re not playing well enough to win right now. We recognize that. We know what the issues are. We don’t need stat sheets or opinions to attempt to knock us off our focus. I think this football team still has a chance to be special.
The big question is: When will Rodgers be able to play again? Scott Tolzien has done admirable work over the past two games at quarterback, especially since he was just signed off the practice squad the week after the Bears game, but he has also made crucial mistakes.
Tolzien threw for a combined 619 yards against the Eagles and Giants, but he also threw five interceptions and only one touchdown.
Rodgers, by comparison, had only thrown four picks to go with 15 touchdowns this season before he was injured in the eighth game.
Over the past two seasons, Rodgers only threw 14 interceptions, compared to 84 touchdown passes.
That's why the Packers need their 2011 NFL MVP and Super Bowl XLV MVP back as soon as possible.
Yes, there are other issues, like those on the defense. Green Bay's tackling definitely improved against the Giants, but there were still too many mistakes in the secondary and the Packers only created one turnover.
But a quarterback like Rodgers can overcome some of the shortcomings that the Packers have in different areas. Tolzien can't, and he shouldn't, be expected to do the same.
Take it from someone who broke his left clavicle, which took about a month to heal—everyone is different. I'm sure Rodgers will try to convince the Packers medical staff that he can play as early as this upcoming Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, as the Packers try to stop the bleeding. Rodgers showed that he was able to throw some passes before the Giants game.
Clay Matthews missed four games this year due to a broken thumb. He came back to play last week with a club cast protecting his thumb, but was not very effective. Against the Giants, Matthews played with a smaller cast that allowed his fingers to be mobile and he was much more productive.
Matthews talked about Rodgers' injury situation to Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin:
I don’t know him (speaking of Rodgers). He’s like Batman.
Listen: You know Aaron. You know how competitive he is. He’s like a linebacker playing quarterback. That’s just his competitive nature. It’s like me sitting out with a broken thumb. Just because I can’t play, it doesn’t make it any easier sitting on the sideline. I came back last week, and you saw that stump on my hand. It’s no different (in his mind).
But we need to be a little smarter with him. Not just because of his title as a franchise quarterback, but the fact that it’s a tricky injury. I mean, you get hit once and go down once awkwardly and the season’s over.
I can’t speak for him. But I’ve seen him in there (in the training room) doing everything he can to get back. And it’s tricky, because I’ve had these battles with the medical staff, too. You know your own body. And I’m pushing this with my thumb. I mean, I should still be in a club today. So I’m pushing it. It’s a battle. I have countless talks with these doctors, which I hate. It’s how I feel versus how they perceive that I feel. That’s how it is.
The doctors, they need to protect the investments of the team and the players and what’s in their best interest, but as competitors, as athletes, we want to do everything we can to get on the field. But we have to be smart. I was 99 percent sure I wasn’t going to reinjure my thumb last week. But that possibility was there. He probably thinks the same thing. But there’s no cast you can put on your shoulder.
I don’t know. I hope we get him back as soon as possible. Let’s just put it that way.
In 2010, the Packers could not afford to lose another game after falling to New England in order to make the playoffs, and they didn't.
Rodgers returned and the Packers won their last two regular-season games at Lambeau Field against the Giants and Bears to finish 10-6, and won a spot in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
That momentum carried on to the postseason where the Packers had three road wins against the Eagles, Falcons and Bears in very difficult venues before beating the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
Rodgers was the key in the postseason, as he threw for 1,094 yards, nine touchdowns and just two picks, earning a 109.8 quarterback rating.
Rodgers is the key again this season if the Packers expect to make the playoffs and then have success there.
But Green Bay has to start winning, especially against divisional opponents. The Packers' need to start changing that on Sunday against the Vikings at Lambeau Field. Four days later, the Packers will play in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Two huge games in just four days—will Rodgers be available to play in either one of those games or perhaps even both? Time will tell.
The Packers' season might just depend on it.
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